I have until 5:30 tonight to figure this out, as we didn't hear the news until after we'd dropped the kids off. I have an 8 year old so I expect to be asked a fair bit of detail.
I dunno... you could stick with the idea that Osama was a bad man who did bad things who is now gone, so many people are happy.
4 is pretty young, even a precocious 4.
Mine is 3, so mostly practice avoidance for now. If he asks anything, we go with the truth as much as possible in an age appropriate way.
Last week he asked if it hurts the ants when we "remove" (squish) them from our house. I said that it hurts them some (they die quickly), but that we don't have a choice, because we can't have ants living in our house. I've told him many times that we like ants and other insects outside and would never hurt them there.
Mcglory, I'd find explaining where babies come from much easier than discussing Bin Laden or the existence/lack of god(s). The first is a question of anatomy and fact. The other two have many more gray areas.
I reposted a thing the little man's daycare put out after the tsunami in Japan. Should be under Parenting a month or so ago. I thought it was useful (the gist: answer questions honestly and factually, but without covering a lot of the scarier parts, try to avoid emotionally processing in front of the kids). They're clearly still using the same method, since the little man came home last week and told me that a tornado was a really strong wind that picks up cars and animals and sometimes houses and people have to try to be safe, and that there are not very many tornadoes where we live. Anyway, I'll probably re-read their guidelines before he comes home today. We've been mostly avoiding the news around him, but frankly some of the kids in his preschool class are more up on current events than I am.
We went with the fact that there was a man who had made many bad decisions (in our house we specify that nobody is "bad" or "good" but that people choose to make bad or good decisions). I told him that the army had killed this man because he had made so many bad decisions and killed many people. I also told him that this man believed in a god, and that he believed that this god had told him it was the right thing to do to hurt people (would not have brought this up, except for all of our conversations about gods lately). I told him many people were happy that this man died, but that I personally did not think it was right to kill somebody no matter how many bad decisions they made, but rather they should be locked up where they cannot hurt anybody else. It seemed to go ok. I was just wondering how other people address this stuff. I remember that thread Kommish, and that's what we aim to do. Honestly, I'd be happy to answer his questions if I was less worried about him talking to other kids about this stuff (and possibly getting it mangled in the process).
I don't know. If the boys ask, I'll try to answer honestly and simply and change the subject as quickly as possible. Especially if A brings it up. N is pretty good about understanding these sorts of things and getting that they are complicated and that answers aren't always easy, but A is only 5 and the world is still black and white to him. But I generally will try for MNM's avoid and deny strategy for this one, because this is a hard one.
And I agree with DLBK as well--where babies come from and even natural disasters and god are pretty easy compared to this sort of thing.
Ohh go get the book Fireboat: http://www.amazon.com/FIREBOAT-Heroic-Adventures-Harvey-Globe-Horn/...
It is a fantastic way to explain the story of 9/11 (but warning read it first it always makes me cry when I haven't read it for a while). From there explaining that bin Laden helped plan the attacks that hurt people that day and many other days in many other places all over the world, is probably enough to let a four-year-old understand he was a bad guy. Most 4-year-old questions about current events stem from their need to understand how this matters to them and that they are safe.
I was glad that my 10 and 13 year old boys seemed to get that it was possible to be releaved and sad at the same time.
This might be handy for slightly older kids: